What’s a working dog to do? You learn your trade, hone your skills, toil away, only to find out that the world around you has evolved to a point where those skills are no longer much appreciated.
It’s why you can’t find a blacksmith too easily nowadays. It’s what happened to the elevator operator, the milkman, and, at least from my biased and disgruntled point of view, the newspaper reporter.
Such too was the case with Phelan, a marijuana-detecting Labrador retriever in the employ of the police department in Lakewood, Colorado.
With the passage by Colorado voters of Initiative 502 — legalizing the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana — the skill Phelan was best known for is no longer much in demand there.
In fact, his biggest asset has become a liability, the News Tribune reports.
Phelan was handed his pink slip this week and sold to the state Department of Corrections, where, in his new job, his inability to distinguish between marijuana and other drugs won’t be a problem — all drugs being illegal behind bars.
The same story is playing out in Washington state, where voters also legalized marijuana use, and where police departments are figuring out whether to cease training new dogs in marijuana detection, put their existing dogs through ”pot desensitization” training or just retire them and send them out to pasture, according to the Associated Press.
Take it from me, pasture sucks. Dogs and people, I think, prefer having a mission.
But Phelan’s mission, at least in the two states where moderate amounts of marijuana are now permitted, no longer much needs to be accomplished. Worse yet, alerting to small amounts of marijuana could mess up prosecutions in cases involving other, still illegal, drugs.
Say Phelan alerted to drugs in the trunk of a car. Phelan’s inability to distinguish between heroin and marijuana — or at least specify to his handler to which he is alerting — means any subsequent search by officers could have been based on Phelan detecting an entirely legal drug, in an entirely legal amount.
That means the “probable cause” the search was based on might not have really existed, and that means any evidence of illegal drugs subsequently found in the search would likely be tossed out.
Thus Phelan, unless he were to be retrained to drop marijuana-detecting from his repertoire — not easily accomplished — has ended up going from cutting edge law enforcement tool to an old school has been.
Drug detecting dogs — traditionally trained to alert to the smell of marijuana, heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and cocaine – can’t specify what they’re smelling, much less the quantity it might be in.
In Washington, the new law decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of the drug for individuals over 21, and barred the growth and distribution of marijuana outside the state-approved system.
Dog trainer Fred Helfers, of the Pacific Northwest Detection Dog Association, said abandoning pot training is a “knee-jerk” reaction: “What about trafficking? What about people who have more than an ounce?” Still, he’s helping departments who want to put their dogs through ”extinction training” to change what substances dogs alert to. That takes about 30 days, followed by a prolonged period of reinforcement.
The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission removed detecting marijuana from its canine team certification standards this year, and no longer requires dogs be trained to detect it, but some others say, given large amounts of pot are still illegal, it can still be a useful skill for a dog to have.
In Pierce County, prosecutor Mark Lindquist believes new dogs are the answer — dogs trained in sniffing out the other drugs, but not marijuana. He’s not convinced dogs can be re-trained. “We’ll need new dogs to alert on substances that are illegal,” he told the Associated Press.
Other police departments, like Tacoma’s, aren’t making any changes.
“The dog doesn’t make the arrest, the officer does,” said spokesperson Loretta Cool. “A canine alert is just one piece of evidence an officer considers when determining whether a crime has been committed.”
Phelan was one of two drug-sniffing dogs on the police force in Lakewood, Colorado. He’ll be replaced by Kira, a Belgian Malinois who was trained not to alert when she smells marijuana. Duke, a Labrador retriever mix with the old-school training, will remain on the force for now.
Phelan, though, will be moving on, and I sympathize with the crime-fighting Lab.
His new gig in the slammer is clearly a step down the career ladder — not unlike going from being a newspaper reporter detecting corruption and injustice to an unpaid blogger who mostly (but not entirely) regurgitates material already written.
And, for Phelan, there’s the added insult of being sold for the lowly sum of one dollar.
Surely — old school as his talents may be – he was worth more than that.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 12th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alert, cocaine, colorado, court, criminal justice, detect, detection, dog, dogs, drug-sniffing, drugs, heroin, job, K-9, k9, lakewood, law, law enforcement, marijuana, marijuana laws, mission, newspapers, police, police dogs, problems, prosecutors, purpose, reporters, searches, skills, sniffing, tacoma, useless, washington, working dogs
Since January of 2010, Houston police have gunned down 187 dogs, killing 121 of them.
And last year alone, law enforcement officers in Houston and Harris County shot more dogs than New York City police officers shot in 2010 and 2011 combined.
All of those shooting were deemed by police to have been justified, but it’s not too hard to find families that disgree with that.
The KHOU 11 News I-Team did, and its report this week is more evidence that, across the country, requiring police to be trained in dealing with dogs could save dogs, and their families, a lot of pain.
Colorado passed a law requiring that, and it was signed by the governor this week.
The KHOU report, when it looked at the police-involved dog shootings for all of Harris County found at least 228 dogs had been shot by officers and deputies since 2010, 142 of them fatally.
“If the dog turns and comes at a citizen, or the deputy, they have all right to use lethal force,” explained Dpt. Thomas Gilliland of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Records show Harris County deputies shot 38 canines in the last three-and-a-half years.
When asked if all those shootings were justified, Gilliland said: “The justification is, in that matter, and at that moment the deputy had to choose the decision to use lethal force against that animal.”
Sgt. Joseph Guerra, who works as a cruelty investigator for the Houston Humane Society, said it teaches some officers how to safety interact with threatening dogs. But the training isn’t mandated for all officers.
“A lot of times, officers are not sent to training to get that type of certification to feel comfortable enough to deal with these animals,” he said. “We need to get those officers involved in some mandated training in how to defend before going to deadly force.”
The Arlington and Fort Worth Police Departments started mandatory dog training for officers last fall, and state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the training for officers across Texas.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 17th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aggressive, animals, arlington, behavior, canines, colorado, dangerous, deputies, dogs, fatal, fort worth, harris county, houston, interact, killed, law enforcement, new york, officers, pets, police, police shooting dogs, shoot, shot, texas, threatening, training
But, if its lawmakers did, they might find some sound thinking behind Colorado’s new law, mandating police officers get some training in how to deal with dogs they encounter on duty — other than just shooting them.
If we were suggesting, we’d suggest every state look into doing something similar, or even better, than the Colorado law. It requires officers undergo three hours of online training in dog behavior, and how to recognize when a dog truly poses a threat.
While Iowa, at first glance, doesn’t seem to have experienced quite as many questionable shootings as Colorado, there have been at least a few instances a year of dogs being shot and killed by police.
“He wasn’t a ferocious dog,” she said of Tank, her border collie-pit bull mix. “He never bit anyone. He was only a year-and-a-half old. He probably thought the police officer was playing with him,” she told the Quad City Times.
Police Chief Phil Redington said the dog attacked the officer and deadly force was an appropriate response.
On Saturday, Williams’ two dogs, Tank and Cleo, escaped when a gust of wind blew open her door. They had wandered several blocks when they began barking at some dogs at another home.
The owners of that home tried to shoo the two dogs away, and called police when they wouldn’t leave.
The dogs were corraled on the back deck, hemmed in by lawn chairs, when police, and Williams, arrived.
“When he (Tank) saw me, he jumped over one of the chairs, and the officer tried to grab him,” said Williams, who managed to grab hold of her other dog.
The police chief said Tank jumped at the officer “snapping its teeth. The officer brushed the dog away with his arm and the dog attacked again, jumping and snapping at the officer’s face. The officer kicked the dog away, at which time the dog bit his shin, causing minor lacerations. The officer removed his gun and fired at the dog twice. The dog was approximately two feet away when the officer fired in a downward direction.”
“I keep playing the scenario over and over in my mind,” Williams said. ”I blame myself. They shouldn’t have gotten out. Why did he have to shoot him, though? Why not a stun gun or pepper spray?”
Redington said the level of force used to ward off a dog attack is up to an individual officer.
“We all love animals,” he said. “To me, it doesn’t matter if it’s a pit bull, border collie or poodle. If he’s attacking a police officer, the officer should defend himself.”
Tank was taken to a veterinary clinic, where he died.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 15th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, attacked, bettendorf, collie, colorado, dog, dogs, iowa, killed, law, law enforcement, mix, owner, pets, pit bull, police, questionable, questions, shooting, tank, training
The Nevada Supreme Court — no stranger to such matters — will decide whether Onion, the Mastiff mix who killed his owner’s grandson on his first birthday, should live or die.
The court will hear arguments — 30 minutes worth, it has specified — on July 3 before deciding whether the city of Henderson should be allowed to kill the dog.
Another option has been offered by the Lexus Project, a New York-based organization that provides legal representation to dogs.
The Lexus Project intervened in the case and wants to gain custody of Onion, then send him to live at a secure sanctuary in Colorado.
The 120-pound mastiff-Rhodesian ridgeback mix killed Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan by biting him on the head the day of his first birthday party. Later that day, the owner turned Onion over to Henderson animal control officers, who planned to kill the dog in accordance with the city’s vicious-dog ordinance.
The city turned down the Lexus Project’s offer to take responsibility for the dog, and has fought its request to be awarded custody. Onion’s former owner now wants Lexus to have the dog, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
The court battle has been going on for a year now.
Last year, Clark County District Court Joanna Kishner ruled the city of Henderson could proceed with the dog’s execution.
The state Supreme Court issued a stay — it’s second in the case — until arguments could be heard.
Those will take place July 3 at 11:30 a.m.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 15th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 120 pounds, animal control, animals, colorado, death, defense, dog, dogs, euthanasia, execution, henderson, jeremiah, legal, lexus project, life, mastiff, mix, nevada, onion, pets, rhodesian, ridgeback, safety, sanctuary, supreme court, the lexus project
Dog lovers have been pushing for the measure in light of recent fatal pet shootings by law enforcement officers, some of which were widely viewed as questionable and might have been preventable if officers had more knowledge of dogs and were better able to determine when they posed a true threat.
During debate on the bill, lawmakers said 37 dogs have been shot by officers in Colorado over the last five years.
“The idea here is to keep officers and animals safe,” Hickenlooper said. The governor brought his dog, Skye — a shelter mutt who is part Akita, part bulldog, part chow chow – along for the bill signing.
Also on Monday, the Colorado legislature proclaimed shelter dogs and cats as the official state pets, approving a proposal presented by schoolchildren as part of a program to teach them about the legislative process.
The training legislation mandates that sheriffs’ offices and police departments offer three hours of online training on recognizing dog behaviors and employing non-lethal control methods, according to the Associated Press. The law also directs authorities to give dog owners the option to control or remove their dogs when officers respond to a call concerning a nonviolent crime. The training must be in place by Sept. 1, 2014.
The bill — believed to be the first of its kind – was unanimously approved.
(Photo: Brittany Moore with Ava, her German shepherd, who was shot and killed by an Erie, Colo., police officer in May 2011)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 14th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, ava, bill, colorado, dog, dogs, governor, killings, law, law enforcement, mandated, officers, online, pets, police, requirement, shootings, signed, three hours, training
A former Marine sniper’s support dog was shot by police in Dacono, Colo., after escaping from his yard and acting in what police say was an aggressive manner.
Mongo, a 3-year-old pit bull, is recovering from a gunshot wound to the chest.
His owner, James Vester, is seeking an explanation and an apology from police, whose behavior, he noted, seemed more like something you’d see on the streets of Iraq.
“I didn’t think I would see that again. You see it in Iraq — and then you see your best friend here get shot,” said Vester, who got Mongo, a certified emotional support dog, to alleviate stress after returning from combat.
Vester said he was doing yard work when Mongo got loose. A neighbor called police because Mongo began barking at her dogs from across a fence. When two officers arrived, Mongo barked and growled and lunged at one of them, according to police reports.
Some neighbors disputed the police account, according to Fox 31 News in Denver.
“There was no noise at first, I just heard the gunshot — then the dog started crying,” said Heather Viera, who was told by police to go back inside her home when she stepped outside.
Another neighbor, Jenny Stevens, says she was a few hundred feet down the road, walking her dogs, when she heard the shot. She said she didn’t hear any barking or growling before it was fired. “It was dead silent. There was not a bark, there wasn’t a growl. The cop did not say stop to the dog, the cop didn’t yell anything.”
Dacono Police Chief Matthew B. Skaggs said an investigation was being conducted.
“I think it is important to remember these things develop very quickly,” the chief said. “If you look in the report, the officer did say specifically that the dog got within six feet of him and at that point he felt like it was his only option.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 9th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aggressive, animals, barks, behavior, colorado, dacono, emotional, growls, investigation, iraq, james vester, law enforcement, marine, mongo, pets, pit bull, police, police shoot dog, service, shoot, shot, sniper, support dog, veteran
Sierra, a West Highland terrier in Colorado, had 26 cents in her stomach.
But it was the single penny that killed her.
Owner Maryann Goldstein said Sierra was always attracted to change. As a puppy, the Westie swallowed 32 cents and had to have it surgically removed. In March, Sierra got sick again, and X-rays at the vet’s office showed a quarter and penny in her stomach.
The smaller coin was the bigger concern.
Pennies minted after 1982 contain zinc, and that’s toxic to dogs and cats, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Dr. Rebecca Jackson, a staff veterinarian at Petplan pet insurance, told CBSNews.com that newer pennies are toxic because gastric acid from the pet’s stomach reaches the zinc center, causing it to be absorbed in the body rapidly.
She said zinc interferes with red blood cell production, and the longer the exposure, the greater likelihood red blood cells will be destroyed. Symptoms of zinc toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy, red-colored urine or looking jaundiced.
“Be sure to bank your spare change before curious pets can get their paws on it,” warned Jackson. “and if they do, get them to the emergency vet immediately.”
Goldstein, who now wears Sierra’s ashes in a heart-shaped container on a necklace, shared her dog’s story with CBS in Denver as a warning to others.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 25th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 1982, after, animals, caution, colorado, contain, death, dogs, health, lethal, minted, pennies, penny, pets, safety, sierra, toxic, veterinary, warning, west highland terrier, westie, zinc
Anyone who follows dog news knows that (A) police departments are turning to dogs more than ever to help fight crime; and that (B) local police officers are shooting dogs more than ever; and that (C) those two trends don’t seem to add up.
You’d think that, as police departments become more dog savvy, reports of officers shooting dogs they feel threatened by would be declining.
Instead, nearly weekly, there’s news of another family pet being gunned down — often pit bulls, sometimes breeds not known for provoking fear, like retrievers.
It’s Arvada. All Arvada police officers are getting dog behavior training, ABC 7 in Denver reports — and they don’t have to go far to get it, considering the experts are often right in the same building.
Officers in the department’s K-9 unit are working with those who patrol the streets in an attempt to give them a better understanding of dog behavior.
“We can be a good resource for them and offer a different perspective,” said Jennie Whittle.
By working with and learning from the department’s K-9s and handlers, the program hopes to better equip officers on the street to deal with dogs, so that fear isn’t the first, and the dominant, reaction.
Often, all a dog that might appear aggressive needs is some time and space.
“Fido just came out here and he isn’t necessarily trying to attack me and if I just give that dog some space then we don’t have any further issue with that dog,” Ron Avila explained.
“Even our patrol officers are, I don’t want to say scared, but intimated at times when we go around our own canine police dogs,” said Arvada police officer Jason Ammons.
Ammons was on bike patrol when a pit bull ran after him and attempted to bite his leg. He used his Taser on the dog instead of his gun, which Arvada officers are being taught is the preferred option.
In light of recent shootings of dogs by officers in other towns, state Sen. David Balmer plans to introduce a bill that would make dog training mandatory for all police officers.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 26th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: adams county, animals, arvada, behavior, canine, colorado, commerce city, david balmer, dog, dogs, K-9, k9, law, law enforcement, legislation, officer, patrol, pets, police, prevention, program, senator, shooting, shootings, training
And, groundless as the accusations are, the New York Times saw fit to print them.
Cruz, a three-year-old Samoyed, died just a few days after competing at Westminster.
The New York Times calls it, “A whodunit that has rattled the show world and ignited tensions between animal activists and purebred-champion breeders.”
Why point the finger at animal rights rowdies for the death of Cruz?
Robert Chaffin, Cruz’s handler, says simply that they are the most likely suspects.
“Unfortunately, dog shows have been plagued by some of these people for years,” he said. “I’ve heard horror stories about other people’s dogs having their setups tampered with, being poisoned, but I never thought it would come to me.”
While animal rights groups have long protested dog shows, tampering with and poisoning canine contestants — a rare occurence — has traditionally more often been perpetrated by the human competitors, either out of jealousy or to better their chances to win.
Based on known facts so far, Cruz’s humans seem to be making a pretty big leap.
Chaffin accompanied Cruz to New York for the Westminster competition and says he paid close attention to everything the dog ate, including a steak he fed him the night before. Despite his monitoring, he said, “It would have been easy for someone to throw something in his cage.”
On top of that, Chaffin said he remembered a stranger at the Westminster show glaring at him and making a disapproving remark about Cruz having been debarked, a process in which a dog’s vocal cords are removed.
Chaffin admitted there was no evidence that Cruz had been deliberately poisoned, and no confirmation that poisoning was even the cause of death.
No necropsy was performed.
Lynette Blue, one of Cruz’s owners said she declined a necropsy because she was confident that he swallowed poison. Blue says she called New York City police after Cruz died to report possible foul play.
Cruz, 3, died on Feb. 16 in Lakewood, Colo., where he was competing in another show. He began vomiting blood, and Chaffin took him to Animal Critical Care and Emergency Services in Lakewood, where he was hooked up to an intravenous drip and received oxygen, but died shortly thereafter.
“We have been devastated and in shock,” Blue said. “This is one of the most painful experiences of my life.”
Molly Comiskey, the Colorado veterinarian who treated Cruz, said his symptoms resembled those of a poisoned dog, but that his cause of death remains unclear. She saw no reason to believe he’d been intentionally poisoned.
“Dogs are dogs. It’s not anyone’s fault. They eat stuff; they get into things; they make bad decisions,” she said.
The Times article points out the possibility that Cruz may have had an undiagnosed genetic disorder, but quotes Blue as saying he had no history of such. The lack of answers, it seems, is leading to some pretty wild speculation.
“We keep thinking of the various scenarios, and it’s starting to feel like something we may never know,” Blue said.
Given his owners passed on a chance to help solve what they see as a whodunit — namely, having a necrospy performed — that might very well be the case.
(Photo: Lynette Blue)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 28th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: activists, animal rights, animals, blamed, colorado, cruz, death, died, dog, dog shows, dogs, evidence, handler, lakewood, mouse poison, owners, pets, poison, poisoned, purebred, rat poison, robert chaffin, samoyed, suspected, westminster, westminster kennel club dog show, whodunit
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that Kasel Associates Industries Inc. is recalling all pet treats manufactured at its Denver plant from April 20 through Sept. 19, 2012 due to potential contamination with Salmonella.
Products manufactured by the company are sold under various brand names by retailers that include Target, Petco, Sam’s Club and Costco.
The company had issued three previous recall notices for specific products manufactured during this time period. Now the list of recalled products has expanded to more than 50.
In September, Kasel recalled Boots & Barkley beef bully sticks. Weeks later it recalled Nature’s Deli Chicken Jerky Dog Treat. Two weeks after that it recalled Boots & Barkley Roasted American Pig Ears and Boots & Barkley American Variety Pack Dog Treats
The recalls began after the Colorado Department of Agriculture tested a retail sample of a Kasel pet treat product and found it to be positive for Salmonella. Follow-up inspections by the FDA found that at all of the finished pet treat product samples and 48 out of 87 environmental samples collected tested positive for Salmonella.
More than ten different species of Salmonella were found in the firm’s products and manufacturing facility, indicating multiple sources of contamination, according to an FDA press release.
The FDA says it has received a small number of complaints of illness in dogs who were exposed to the treats.
Because of the multiple positive tests for Salmonella, and the production practices and conditions observed at the facility during the inspection, the FDA believes that there is a reasonable probability that all pet treat products manufactured in the facility from April 20, 2012 through September 19, 2012 are contaminated with Salmonella.
Both people and animals can contract Salmonellosis from handling or eating contaminated products. People handling dry pet treats should thoroughly wash their hands after having contact with the treats as well as any surfaces exposed to these products.
Salmonella is a public health risk and is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness. Its symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.
Pets with Salmonella infections may become lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Some pets may experience only a decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected, but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed any of the affected product or is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
You can find the full list of recalled Kasel products here.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 25th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bixbi, boots and barkley, colorado, colorado naturals, contamination, costco, denver, dog food, dog treats, dogs, fda, food and drug adminstration, health, kasel, kasel associates industries, pet treats, petco, pets, recall, safety, salmonella, sams club, target, treats, urgent, voluntary